To kick off 2015 I thought we would use this space to give the the Namibian African Wild Dog Project an opportunity to introduce themselves. This project is a collaboration between AfriCat, Na’an ku se, Namibia Nature Foundation and the Ministry of Environment and Tourism (MET).
The African Wild Dog was last assessed in 2008 and are listed as ‘endangered’ on the IUCN red list. In fact these guys are one of the most endangered African large predators with a free roaming population which covers only about 12% of their historical range area. Namibia, which has a great conservation success rate in other areas, only has an estimated population of about 200 individuals, most of which occur outside of our national parks and conservancy areas.
African Wild Dogs are very social creatures, who hunt in packs and depend on each other for breeding success as well. Usually there is only one mating pair per den, but all the pack members take care of the pups.
I suppose the one thing that does count in their favour is that the African Wild Dogs have been observed in a number of different habitats – so they can adapt to their surroundings.
The Namibia African Wild Dog Project (NAWDP) was started in 2012 following the identification of a huge information/data gap regarding the species in Namibia.
The main project area is known as the Mangetti Complex (Kavango, North-Eastern Namibia) and is comprised of Mangetti Cattle Ranch (168,900ha of predominantly livestock farms) which is a high conflict area, and with permission from MET, the project has also been granted access to the Mangetti National Park to give a more balanced and complete overview of wild dog activity.
The NAWDP project is being run in phases. The focus of phase 1 & 2 has been to gain a clearer understanding of the presence of the African Wild Dog, human-animal conflicts, diseases etc. and the main aim of the data gathered from this phase of the project is to put forward a plan and procedure for human – wildlife conflict.
There have been a number of interesting discoveries about African Wild Dogs to date:
There appear to be 4 resident groups of African Wild Dog in the Mangetti, but only 2 of there are breeding
For a Wild Dog pack to be viable (breeding) there need to be at least five pack members – the two non-breeding packs mentioned previously consist of 3 and 4 individuals respectively.
The NAWDP is also focusing heavily on education of the local communities
Going forward there are massive plans afoot for a collaring programme, which they desperately need funding for. They hope that once this is under-way and regular updates can be received from packs that a workable livestock management programme can be worked out with the local communities.
There is no getting around the fact that African wild dogs are carnivores and as such, are a high conflict species in farming areas. However, their ‘bad reputation’ comes from years of ingrained persecution. Their hunting behaviour and livestock predation incidents only fuel the misconceptions about the species especially during denning season when the dogs cease to be nomadic, in order to raise their pups.
Addressing the education and awareness gap is vital! The project is looking towards public awareness programmes aimed at actively involving the public in wild dog conservation issues.
These guys do need a lot of support – like the Giraffe these animals have been over-looked for a long time, and it’s time we do something about this.
To quote: “Without a drastic change in mind set, and any and all conservation strategies are futile.”
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Alternatively contact Rachel du Raan directly: firstname.lastname@example.org